We must not be copyists or merely servile imitators; from the fullness of our knowledge, we must seek to produce what is new, and what is accordant with the spirit of the times; but what we produce must reveal our knowledge of the ornament of past ages.
The First Industrial Designer
Christopher Dresser is often considered the first industrial designer – someone who regarded the Industrial Revolution not as a threat to the handicraft tradition, but as an opportunity to bring finely decorated and affordable objects into people's homes. Dresser was one of the first European designers to visit Japan upon its opening to the world in 1854 and a subsequent trip in 1876 brought about a fervor of design output inspired by the forms and aesthetics of Japanese textiles, cloisonné, ceramics and paintings, including the works he made for Minton, where he worked from the 1860s to the 1880s.
Beginning in the 1840s, Dresser had worked for many companies around the world, at least thirty, designing textiles, wallpaper, tableware, and ceramics (also making him one of the first truly industrial designers, freelancing for a variety of firms). It is noted in Shock of the Old: Christopher Dresser's Design Revolution that much of his output up until the 1880s has been difficult to definitively link to Dresser, as it was not his expressed aim to singularly claim designs and his influence at these firms was fluid; while at Minton, he designed specific works, contributed motifs, as well as served as an art director, leading others in fulfilling his aesthetic vision. While other Western firms of the era had used the japonisme style to charming effect, Dresser elevated it, inventing striking forms that blended East and West and, using his studies of botany, created motifs that went beyond simply ornament. The works he developed while at Minton would be influential to designers for decades to come.